When I told my buddy about my church planting plans, he said, “You’ll never let go of the ring, Frodo, they never do.”
My friend Ken Hiroshige was also my dentist. He drilled me with words while while working a long needle into my jaw.
“They never let go when they get to your place. It just isn’t done. There is too much pride involved. You’d have to really sell out and I don’t think you can.”
Ken compared leaving a large Southern California pastorate to Frodo letting go of that magic ring in Tolkien’s books. He knew that I’d trade security and recognition for the insecurity that comes with planting a new church. However, he was also very wrong in his assumption that “this just isn’t done.”
Leaving What You Know
I had just told Ken that I felt God calling me to leave a great life to plant a church in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The church plant would involve people of a different racial and cultural background than mine. My wife and I would leave a congregation of more than 2,000 people and a California beach town that fit like our own skin. We’d move away from friends whom we dearly loved. All this while our church benefited from heaps of improbable attention in the local, and national, media.
The Associated Press had recently released a story about our church that appeared on more than 40 radio stations, newspapers and TV networks across the country. A big LA newspaper published a two-page spread, complete with photos. The biggest rock station in Canada interviewed us twice. Esquire magazine kicked it off with an eight-page story that mushroomed into our 15 minutes of fame. This was heady stuff to relinquish for the relative obscurity of a new church plant, in a place where I knew practically no one.
Losing To Gain
The Bible brims over with stories of people who let go of the “ring” in their lives.
God called Abraham to forsake familiar circumstances–his father’s inheritance, political power and family idols. God never gave him a map. He only promised to show him the land after he got there.
Read about Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Jesus disciples and Saul of Tarsus. You must let go of personal control whenever God calls you into something new. When you let go, you surrender the (sometimes boring ) benefit of familiarity for the excitement of living in faith. Scary, but fun.
Church Planting While Letting Go
Every church planter knows this well. And, those who send them also struggle. Sending churches let go of good leaders, money and people whenever they multiply a church. The kingdom of God gains first, but we do to. God does give to those who give and he blesses those who yield to his call.
The move resulted in a conglomeration of a couple of thousand churches, tons of new friends and a life worth living. I’m glad we did it. Now, I face upheaval all over again. This time it isn’t to plant a church. I’m retiring from my job as pastor of Hope Chapel Honolulu.
I thought retirement brought quiet hours with friends and catching up on novels and history books. The actual “retirement” now presents several new and busy opportunities to share the message of this post–how to make disciples and multiply churches. Retirement may be different than I envisioned, but each time I’ve let go, I’ve found that God has new blessings waiting. I’m excited!
Once you experience it, letting go should get easier each time he asks…
(Adapted from chapter one of Let Go Of The Ring: The Hope Chapel Story, fifth edition)